The Spanish have it best. Late afternoon siestas are a part of their culture and no boss there is ever going to raise an eyebrow if you’re caught snoozing at your desk! While that might not be the case for us, stealing a nap is still an awesome way to reboot your brain and get it into action mode.
A quick nap can do wonders for your brain is something that you already know. But do you have any idea how long you should nap? No? We thought so! Which is why we’re here to help.
Like most of the things we do, napping too is as much an art as it is a science. You have to do it right to get the results you desire. In fact, the varying lengths of your nap can signify different benefits! Which basically means that your nap length can determine the brain advantage you end up with after napping. At least according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal (1).
While most experts are of the opinion that a nap lasting anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes is ideal, the report in WSJ suggests that the napping length that suits you best might be entirely different (2).
So, why the difference?
Well, it’s because of the difference in reasons for why you, or say your friend, wants to nap. Just like no two people want the same flavor of ice cream, the same way different individuals may not want to nap to achieve the same results as well. And this is where the variable comes in. The report says that the nap duration that works for you will be dependent on the result you want to achieve. For example, if you simply want to get fresh, a short nap may prove to be more than enough. However, if you desire more, you may require a longer nap.
So then, how long should you nap to gain the maximum brain benefits?
Here are the different nap lengths along with the ‘brain-gains’ you get from them. You’ll be surprised to know which duration proves itself most beneficial for your brain!
1. 10 To 20 Minutes Of Napping
The shortest possible nap you can take – 10 to 20 minutes – serves as a sort of a power nap. This mini-nap can instantly boost your energy levels and even make you more alert, thereby providing the perfect remedy for the moment when you have a lot of work to do, but just can’t keep your eyes open!
Napping for 10 to 20 minutes means you never go beyond the stage of light or non-rapid eye movement sleep, which makes it easier for you to get back to whatever you were doing once you’re awake.
2. 30 Minutes Of Napping
A 30-minute napping session is something scientists are divided over. While some studies show that napping this long can lead to problems such as sleep inertia and the awful feeling that you’ve gotten a hangover, others suggest that this is actually the right length to nap. Especially if you didn’t sleep well the night before.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, taking a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal effects of poor sleep from the previous night (3). Researchers of the study found that sleeping for 30 minutes during the day can boost the immune system and even reduce stress.
However, that is not to say that after sleeping for 30 minutes, you won’t feel groggy. You most probably will. As Dr. Michael Breus explains, after napping for 30 minutes, you enter into the deep stages of sleep, which can make waking up much harder (4). So, you better do this only when you haven’t slept properly the night before.
3. 60 Minutes Of Napping
This long siesta is particularly good for you if you have the habit of forgetting things. A 60-minute nap can help you in remembering the names, faces, and facts (that you’ve just learned) better than a short nap can. Snoozing for an hour induces your body to enter into slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest type. According to Dr. Mednick, this is the best sleep for cognitive memory processing. However, there’s a downside – you may end up feeling muzzy after you wake up.
4. 90 Minutes Of Napping
A one and a half hour of napping actually constitutes a full cycle of sleep, which makes it a very refreshing one indeed. When you sleep this long, you go through all the stages of sleep, including REM or rapid eye movement sleep, which is associated with dreaming. This duration of napping is the one that holds the biggest brain benefits. It improves your emotional and procedural (the kind that involves the learning of a skill, such as playing an instrument) memory and even boosts your creativity (5). Moreover, sleeping this long means you don’t get the ‘sleep hangover’ and can wake up easily!
So, depending on what you want, you can choose your ideal nap length and say goodbye to the feeling of dullness and exhaustion. Now you know which nap duration we’d recommend!